Words are difficult. Words, be they spoken or read, are signifiers, meaning they are concepts which signify things. For us in the western world, which words are used and how they are used matter a great deal, but the words themselves are less a reality than the things they represent.
And the Word became flesh. Talk about two mutually exclusive terms, here they are: word and flesh. Words represent things. Flesh is touchable. Yet, this is the Word who was in the beginning, the Word who is God. This is the Word who isn’t a concept that signifies things. This is the Word that commands and all things submit, the Word who brought all things into being. When God speaks, His Word is active and makes stuff happen!
The Word became flesh. This Word became touchable and made His dwelling among us. From the very beginning, God’s desire was never a long-distance relationship. God’s intimate communion with Adam was evident as God the creator spoke directly to His creature, the man. Yet, this intimate communion was destroyed in the Fall. The image of God, that special relationship, was broken, lost because of man’s disobedience.
Now the Word who is God from the beginning has become flesh. He has come among us by becoming one of us. He has come with a specific purpose in mind. John wrote in today’s Gospel, and I’m using my own translation here:
For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth happened through Jesus Christ.
The Law has a mediator named Moses. Moses speaks for Yahweh, the God of the Israelites, but he isn’t Yahweh. Yahweh is is the God who speaks, who commands nature, who establishes His people. Yet, He speaks through His prophet Moses.
Now Yahweh the God of the Israelites, the speaking God who is His Word that makes things happen, He has become flesh. There is no mediator here, for Jesus Christ is grace and truth. Grace and truth happen because of Jesus. He is the favor of God toward sinners. He is the only true way to life. There is no longer a long distance relationship or conversation with His fallen creatures, for the Word who is God, who speaks, who is grace and truth, has made His dwelling place among us that He might save us.
With His word, He continues to speak. He speaks water into wine. He speaks sight to the blind. He speaks life into the dead. His voice weeps over the death of a friend. He cries out in anguish as He is crucified. Finally, He speaks redemption’s price paid, crying out from the cross, “It is finished.”
Grace and truth happened through Jesus Christ, for He has spoken it. Grace and truth continue to happen. The Word did not stay in some ethereal realm. He did not sit in heaven, punching buttons and making things happen. No, the Word became flesh. He made His dwelling among us, being grace and truth, for He longs to be near us. He continues to come among us in the mysteries He has given His Church.
Every time His Word is proclaimed… Here at Mt. Olive, as a simple, bald, overweight guy proclaims the simple Word of God, Jesus is pleased to come to His people. Jesus is grace and truth. Grace and truth happen not because the preacher is so great, but because Jesus is here according to His promise.
Every time the word of absolution is spoken to a sinner, assuring him of sins forgiven, grace and truth happen because the Word made flesh dwells among us. Every time a sinner is rinsed clean in the refreshing water of Holy Baptism, there the Word made flesh brings grace and truth to happen, and a sinner is declared a saint for Jesus’ sake. Every time a believer feasts and hears the Word being grace and truth, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” the Word who became flesh is grace and truth among us. Behind His chosen mysteries, the Word made flesh still dwells among us. He still makes grace and truth happen among us.
As believers who have been washed, who have heard their sins released, who have been fed and nourished on that which was given and shed for their forgiveness go about their daily vocations, the Word who became flesh is grace and truth. In the lives of mothers and fathers and students and children and workers, the word made flesh is grace and truth in this world which was made through Him.
Last night, our Jewish neighbors began the season of Hannukah. Hannukah sometimes called the festival of lights. If you’ve never read the story, take some time to do it. It’s remarkable. As the first candle of the Menorah is lighted, the blessing is recited: Blessed are you, O Lord our God, king of the universe, for You have sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to light the lights of Hannukah.
From the very first days of the tabernacle in the wilderness, a light was to be burning first in the tent and then, later, in the temple. The light needed in the temple was the light of Yahweh, the God of the Israelites. It was the same light that burned in the tabernacle and called to a young man named Samuel.
My dear brothers and sisters who gather together in the name of Christ, the light for the temple is no longer only a commemoration. It is no longer far away or a distant memory or fantastic future. The light is Jesus, the Word made flesh who has made His dwelling among us. He has come to us, becoming one of us in order that He might be the atoning sacrifice for us. We are redeemed by His blood. He is grace and truth; He makes grace and truth happen among us. In Him, and in Him alone, there is life.